Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Archive for April, 2009

Kew Millenium Seed Bank Project

Castilleja Seed

Castilleja Seed

If you’ve ever wanted to see your seeds magnified by an electron microscope, check out the slideshow of seeds and pollen from the Kew Millenium Seed Bank Project. They look otherworldly and very cool. The stated goal of the Kew project is to collect seed from 25% of the worlds plant species by 2020. Pretty ambitious and staggering goal.

— Addendum 12/10/09 —

There’s a beautiful gallery of pollen with an accompanying photo essay in the latest National Geographic.

— Addendum 8/24/10 —

National Geographic has another nice collection, this time of butterfly eggs and a stinkbug, by the same guy who did the pollen, Martin Oeggerli. The online collection doesn’t have any more photos than the print edition, but they do have a short video of him. A day to isolate the egg, he says, a day to do the scan, and up to 40 hours to add the color. A lot of work, and a beautiful finished project.

— Addendum 11/12/12 —

Smithsonian has some more photos from the Seed Bank.

You Know It’s a Foliage Plant When…

asarum caudatum, wild ginger

Asarum caudatum, wild ginger

…you reach down to pick off a brown thing and realize that the brown thing is the flower. It’s actually a pretty cool flower, but probably best described as interesting but inconspicuous, as half of them hide under the foliage. I’m just glad to see the plant looking happy. I bought it as a 2″ stubby, and it was miserable for a long time, until I stuck the pot underneath our flagstone bench and ignored it for a while. It’s one of the few California natives that genuinely seems to prefer deep shade, just start it off in really good soil but then completely neglect it. It’s currently in the group of container plants beside our front door, a spot that gets about twenty minutes of direct sunlight during the entire year. (more…)

Coastal California Poppies

Eschscholzia californica maritima & Escholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica maritima & Escholzia californica

I like this accidental side by side comparison of the coastal form of the California poppy, Eschscholzia californica maritima or Eschscholzia californica var. californica, and the regular California poppy, Eschscholzia californica. I put in the regular one two years ago and the coastal form last year. Both plants are perennial in our garden, so now we have both. I suppose growing together they could hybridize, but we deadhead pretty regularly and there are many blocks of houses and concrete between us and any “wild” land.

The regular poppy might be the better plant for most gardens–bigger and faster with larger blooms and that unique burnt-orange color–and it’s definitely more common in gardens, but the coastal one has its merits, too, and seems to be getting more popular. I say “regular” and “coastal,” but I’m pretty sure the coastal form is actually the native one for Richmond Annex where I live. In fact, the owner of Larner Seeds, where I got my seed, has a post on her blog that suggests that the prevalence of the more annual form around the Bay Area hills and throughout the state is the work of past generations of Boy Scouts, Sierra Clubbers, and other human seed dispersers, and that there used to be a lot more regional variance across the state. And apparently people are still doing it, James at Lost in the Landscape cites a recent re-gen project in the San Diego area that used the generic poppy instead of the locally native form.

The flowers of the coastal form have an interesting two-tone color, an orange interior fading to a bright lemony yellow on the outer parts of the petals, and they seem to vary a bit in size and coloring; the biggest coastal flowers are often as big as the smaller flowers on the annual form. In the wild I’ve mostly seen the coastal form looking like a woolly little blue-gray thing growing in dry mineral soil, but in the garden they get about a foot tall, and they’ve been quite willing to cover themselves in blooms during the spring and then keep producing sporadic blooms throughout the summer. Their small size works best for our small garden, so we’re thinking of pulling the regular ones this year, and going down to just the single form, the coastal one.

Escholzia californica maritima, coastal Cal poppy

Eschscholzia californica maritima, coastal Cal poppy

Angled Dry Stone Walls

SF Flower and Garden Show

Old Town Patio Stone

I wanted to post a few more photos of the freestanding wall from the garden show. I haven’t seen many walls with the courses running at an angle, and none quite like this one. To lay the stones at an angle goes against the “rules” I learned about building walls, but, apparently, stoneworkers have been doing it in Cornwall for centuries. The Cornish call their walls “hedges”, and do things like cover them with sod, and they have a whole tradition of stacking slate vertically or at an angle. Their slate doesn’t support weight well when stacked horizontally, so they turn it on its edge, which makes a certain amount of sense; I’ve worked with slate which would crumble from a single hammer blow across the flat, but could withstand repeated blows against the narrow edge. The Guild of Cornish Hedgers has a collection of photos including some walls built with a herringbone pattern. I particularly like this one with stiles for climbing over it. There’s a photo on a blog here and another photo in the Cornish collection in the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain gallery.

the courses, rotated

the courses, with my camera rotated

Through the magic of turning the camera sideways, you can see that the wall is built with courses like a traditional wall, just that the courses run at an angle.

old town patio stone

transition from traditional to angled

The horizontally laid stones of the arch set the angle for the slanted courses. A lot of the wall’s weight is going to be pushing against those horizontal courses and against that arch, but arches are strong and the wall could have stood for a lot longer than the five days of the garden show. Now it only exists in memories and photos.

The Dry Stone Walling Association of Canada has more photos of the wall on their site, and photos of another angled wall they built for a garden show in Canada last year.

WallsWithoutMortar has photos of another angled wall built in Danville, here.

I stuck a couple of detail photos of the arch below. (more…)

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